Who Wants to be a College President? Forms of Capital and the Career Aspirations of Senior College Administrators
Umbach, Paul D.
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This study used the theories of human, social and cultural capital as a lens to study the career aspirations of senior administrators, specifically vice presidents and deans already in the pipeline to the college presidency, particularly as they related to race and gender. More than 2,700 vice presidents and deans at American Association for State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) member institutions were asked to provide demographic information, ant to respond to survey items assessing their accumulation of capital, their experiences with discrimination and their aspirations. More than 1,600 surveys were returned resulting in a 61 % response rate. The typical senior administrator at state colleges and universities was a 54 year old, White, male from a middle to upper class family. Approximately 30% of the senior administrators were women. People of color made up approximately 13% of the senior administrators. African Americans represented the largest number of people of color at 8% of the respondents, followed by Latinos/as (3% of the sample) and other minorities (2% of the sample). The study found that most senior administrators did not aspire to be college presidents. Forms of capital were found to have a strong relationship with aspirations. Greater accumulation of human, social and cultural capital led to higher levels of presidential aspirations. Race and gender also were related to presidential aspirations. African Americans were significantly more likely than Whites to aspire to the presidency, and women were significantly less likely than men to want a presidential post, even after controlling for capital and discrimination. The majority of women and people of color in the study experienced discrimination in their career. For women, their experiences with discrimination appeared to have a negative impact when predicting some of the measures of aspirations. For people of color, their reported experiences had little impact on their presidential aspirations. The findings of this study highlighted the importance of issues of networks and mentoring. It also furthered the understanding of the impact of forms of capital, the pipeline to the presidency and discrimination on the aspirations of senior administrators.